[KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy

Eugene Y. Park eugene.y.park at uci.edu
Mon Jul 21 13:30:49 EDT 2008

Dear all,

Before anything else, I'd like to thank David, Scott, and Marko for
clarifying their positions. After reading more recent postings, I want to
comment further on the issues of neutral U.S. "policy," lobbying, and
international court.

First of all, especially with the kind of system that we have in the U.S.,
we certainly cannot expect one agency to declare what will be the
"neutral" name for the islets in question and ensure that all American
insitutions and individuals abide by that--not to even mention a "U.S.
policy." So again, I'd like to argue that one very useful indicator of
what Americans regard as the de facto "netural" name for the islets is how
most of the American maps, atlases, and encyclopedias label the islets. As
far as I know, for decades, "neutral" Americans have preferred to note
both Koran and Japanese names for the islets. Since I'm not persuaded by
the argument that Liancourt Rocks has been THE neutral American name for
the islets, I find good logic in Han and other librarians' effort to
prevent a shift from the decades-old convetion to Liancourt Rocks.

Also, as Young-Key notes, we're not discussing these issues face-to-face
with everyone that we know in person, and thus it's important that we take
caution with all these loaded terms like "lobbying." And I won't even get
into the fact that in the West, citizens of Asian descent periodically
undergo some media or political scrutiny about lobbying for an Asian
government (remeber the last one, in the Clinton-era U.S., involving
China?). More importantly: Without adequate evidence, how can we say that
a person is "lobbying" for a government? I really think Scott should let
Hana off the hook on this one, that is the charge that she's "lobbying"
for the South Korean government.

As a historian of premodern Korea, I'm afraid that neither South Korea nor
Japan has an "air-tight case" for the claim to the islets. If I were to
dare to quantify the amount of evidence (mostly maps and documents)
favoring one side or another, I'd say 40 percent favor Korea, 30 percent
favor Japan, and 30 percent neither. Regardless, what sems to make the
Koreans more emotional about the islets is the way in which Japan
solidified its claim roughly a century ago when Korea obviously was
powerless to defend itself against the Japanese aggression. If the fact
that Korea was liberated from Japan more than 50 years does not make the
Koreans less sensitive to any statement or action in defense of Japanese
colonial rule in general, then how can we expect the Koreans to be not
"vociferous" about the islets that they've been controlling?

Of course it's not just the emotion that determines why one side wants to
take the case to the international court and the other won't. We're
dealing with governments here, and they obviously calculate potential
gains and losses. When it comes to the islets issue, South Korean
government apparently sees no reason to take the case to the international
court, whereas Japan could only gain from doing so. Likewise, Japan has
its own reasons as to why it won't take the Kuril Islands issue to the
international court while Russia wants to, but please correct me on this
if I'm wrong. If I'm right on the Kurils, then so much for the notion that
Japan is a consistent supporter of the international court while South
Korea is not.

Overall, I am frustrated by the way many South Korean media, institutions,
and individuals--as well as some postings on this list serve--seem to
approach the issue. Sensationalized reports (e.g. the claim that South
Korean government has decided to station marines at the islets), acts of
self-mutilation, and killing animals (even if they didn't symbolize Japan,
I'd be just as appalled) only make the Korean argument look weak in the
eyes of others. In sum, we as the members of this discussion group bear a
heavy responsibility of continuing a rational exchange of ideas.

Gene (please)

>>From Marko Rajakko <marko.rajakko at gmail.com>
> Sent Sunday, July 20, 2008 2:09 pm
> To koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Subject Re: [KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy
> Dear list members,
> As for my previous message, my decision to use "non-issue" may have been
> misguided or slightly misunderstood. I was only trying to relay my own
> personal opinion about this whole matter. After all, English is only my
> third language. My apologies if I unintentionally offended anyone. Having
> said all that, Dokdo-Takeshima question is a very important issue to some
> people and to the South Korean government. I must say that personally I do
> not see anything wrong with the suggested name change. Liancourt Rocks is
> neutral term and I suppose, rather widely used name for the islets.
> Besides, we have to remember that no matter what we call it, in Korean
> maps it will still be Dokdo and in Japanese maps Takeshima.
> What I find interesting is that the Korean side seems to be a lot more
> vociferous than the Japanese side. Why is that? Should not it be the other
> way? Korea has held the islets since 1953, has people living there, has
> stationed a group of police officers on the islets, and if I am not
> mistaken, provides cell phone and Internet services for visitors etc.
> After all this and it still seems to me that Korea is quite insecure of
> its possession.
> The latest news tell us that Korea will replace the police officers
> stationed on the islets with marines. ROK will also send two civil
> servants there as well. All this because Japan claims? I do not think that
> ROK has any reason to risk escalating this dispute any further. Dokdo is
> and has been in Korean hands, by might and/or by right, for the last 55
> years. I do not see that Japan will try to contest this issue with legal
> or military action anytime soon.
> Mr. Burgeson wrote:
> [...] South Koreans should make sure that their historians have made an
> air-tight case for their claim to Dokto, because from what I have read so
> far, they really haven't.
> I am with Mr. Burgeson in this matter. I do not claim to be an expert on
> this issue, but from what I see the Japanese claim has more merit than the
> Korean one. Furthermore, emotional demonstrations, burning of Japanese
> flags, acts of violence against animals and self-mutilation (cutting off
> fingers, self-immolation, trying to commit harakiri) do not solve
> anything. These acts only give Korea and Koreans a bad name abroad.
> As for how to solve this problem, I do have one idea. (Well, actually two,
> if Korea and Japan could agree to divide the islets between themselves.) I
> hope that both parties would agree to take this issue into the
> International Court or UN before something irrevocable happens. Naturally
> both governments would have to follow the court's ruling. Maybe a joint
> custody could come into question like in some divorce cases? At least it
> might bring these two neighbors closer and help to heal some other issues
> of the past. Is this too wishful thinking?
> Marko Rajakko, Finland
>>From "J.Scott Burgeson" <jsburgeson at yahoo.com>
> Sent Sunday, July 20, 2008 5:19 am
> To koreanstudies at koreaweb.ws
> Subject Re: [KS] Library of Congress Korean Controversy
> I regret if I offended anyone by my usage of the word "spam" in reference
> to Hana Kim's email to the List, so I herewith retract that term in the
> hope that dicusssion can focus instead on the far more important
> historical issues concerning Dokto-Takeshima.
> I do, however, object to the insinuation that I merely looked at someone's
> surname and that was enough for me to decide to call them "nationalistic."
> I've been a member of this List for many years and rarely if ever have I
> previously made such a charge, and certainly never in such a vulgar,
> shallow manner. To be clear: It is official US policy and has been for
> decades to be neutral in the Dokdo-Takeshima territorial dispute; thus,
> calling the adoption of a neutral name for those islets "arbitary" is
> certainly nationalistic because it suggests that official US policy itself
> is somehow illegitimate, i.e., by failing to fall in line with South
> Korean claims to the islets.
> Perhaps my previous argument was overly academic in the sense that in
> truth, it does not bother me too much if South Korean interest groups want
> to lobby in the US for Dokto. What does irritate me greatly, however, is
> the insistance by South Korean nationalists that Japan has no right to
> state its own position on Dokdo-Takeshima in its own textbooks. Certainly
> that is an internal matter -- a matter of one nation's "sovereignty" --
> and it is for Japan to decide if it is appropriate to do so or not. So
> let's just say that I'll agree that Hana Kim is welcome in my book to
> lobby for Dokdo all she wants, in the US or anywhere else, if she in turn
> is willing to recognize Japan's right to teach its own views on Dokto in
> its own schools. Deal?
> Perhaps I am a little touchy on this subject because just several hundred
> meters from my home here in Seoul, South Korean nationalists are
> butchering pheasants in front of the Japanese Embassy, and as a fan of
> Japan, Japanese people and Japanese culture, this offends me very much.
> Rather than focusing so much on the propaganda front, South Koreans should
> make sure that their historians have made an air-tight case for their
> claim to Dokto, because from what I have read so far, they really haven't.
> --Scott

Eugene Y. Park
Associate Professor
Department of History
Krieger Hall 200
University of California, Irvine
Irvine, CA 92697
Tel. (949) 824-5275
Fax. (949) 824-2865

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